Canada strips charitable status from group funding Israeli army

Toronto-based charity Beth Oloth funneled money to the Israeli army, violating Canadian law. 

Shadi Jarar’ah APA images

Canada has revoked the charitable status of a Zionist organization that funneled money to projects supporting the Israeli army.

The Toronto-based Beth Oloth Charitable Organization, a group without an online footprint, “had been a registered charity since 1980 and was one of richest in Canada,” with more than US$45 million in 2017 revenues, according to Canada’s Global News.

It appeared “to be acting as a ‘conduit’ that issued tax receipts to donors in Canada to fund the programs of others,” the report adds.

Beth Oloth funded programs called mechinot that prepare Israeli high school students for military conscription, and which include weapons training, mentoring by Israeli soldiers and visits to army bases.

Using charitable donations to fund foreign militaries contravenes Canadian law.

“It is our position that these pre-army mechinot exist to provide support” to Israel’s army, the Canada Revenue Agency states, and that funds given to these programs “are therefore in support of foreign armed forces.”

The revenue agency “also identified a list of other problems such as funding projects in the occupied territories, which it said was contrary to Canada’s policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Global News reported.

The revenue agency recently announced it was investigating the charitable status of the Jewish National Fund of Canada after human rights activists filed complaints over the organization’s role in Israeli human rights violations.

Activists say that like Beth Oloth’s scheme, JNF Canada acts as a conduit for its parent organization, the Jewish National Fund, to funnel money donated by Canadians for projects linked to the Israeli army and to support Israeli policies of expulsion, land theft and discrimination.

The government’s action against Beth Oloth is a hopeful sign “that the era of impunity for Canadian organizations that support the Israeli occupation is finally coming to an end,” said Corey Balsam of Independent Jewish Voices Canada, an activist group that has mobilized to hold JNF Canada accountable for years.

While the revenue agency should be commended for stripping Beth Oloth of its charitable status, JNF Canada “invests tremendously in political protection,” Rabbi David Mivasair of Independent Jewish Voices Canada told The Electronic Intifada.

Mivasair said that while top-level Canadian politicians have long supported JNF Canada and its projects, the charity “works hard to maintain its good-guy image,” touting itself as an environmentally friendly organization.

As activists have documented in their latest complaint, the government has so far failed to hold JNF Canada accountable for any of its actions.

But the decision to strip Beth Oloth of its charitable status could be a sign that Canadian tax authorities are taking their mandate to enforce the law more seriously.

“Given the wealth of evidence against it and that it is already under audit, we expect JNF Canada to be next,” Balsam said.

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Comments

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Finally! Canadian Revenue Agency follows Canadian law! If only our Minister Foreign Affairs Freeland would follow Canadian law, too.

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This is good news. With this precedent in mind, going after the Jewish National Fund makes sense. In order to put them out of business, it's first necessary to demonstrate that they are a business, and not a charity. Once they're deprived of their tax free status, the next step ought to be proving that the JNF operates in contravention of international law and human rights conventions. Given their financial and political capital, this won't be easy, but we have one thing in our favor. It happens to be true.

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The Trudeau led rainbow administration does the right thing? That worries me more than anything. The IDF are the darlings of Hollywood and beyond. The zionist lobby is well entrenched in Canadian politics. Something smells of fish.

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Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).